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(Here’s our preschooler, acting out Peter Rabbit…)

It’s Preschool-Sign-up Season in our town and young parents are trying to figure out the best educational option for their children. Recently, several young mothers have asked me to tell them the basics about homeschooling.  When we sit down to chat and I reflect on my experiences as a homeschooling mother, I realize that the most important things for the preschool years are not distinct to homeschooling, but are applicable to every mother. (However, I can testify from personal experience that these 3 concepts are hugely beneficial to homeschooling, specifically.)

So, in my opinion, here are 3 of the most important things for a mother to do – especially when she’s considering homeschooling:

  1. Most importantly, instead of getting distracted by workbooks, projects, and curriculum for your child, invest as much time and energy in your personal growth as a woman, wife, and mother. 

Develop your relationship with God. Dig into Scripture whenever you can: study it, meditate on it, memorize it, sing it, listen to it, and surround yourself with friends who love it. Learn to pray alone and with friends. Your life is not your own; learn what it means to walk daily with the Lord.

This is also the season to read and study about Christian womanhood and to learn how to love your husband and nurture your children. I always suggest that young women read as much as they can from Sally Clarkson. Listen to her podcasts, subscribe to her blog, and let her encouragement soak into your heart. Regarding a child’s development and education, I also suggest reading material by Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori. Both women offer extremely valuable insights about the nature of childhood and our significant calling as mothers. 

Examine your daily rituals and figure out where you need to grow: Do you need to learn more about nutrition and cooking? Do you need to learn more about finances and design a budget? Do you need to develop faithful and beneficial friendships? Do you need to learn how to manage your time? Do you need to find an exercise habit that works well for your schedule and benefits your body? This is the time to open your eyes, make a plan, and learn. (If homeschooling is in your future, believe me, every ounce of skill and good habit that you’ve established will smooth the road ahead. Even if you do not formally “homeschool”,  you’ll be infinitely stronger for having these practical skills on hand.)

Ask God to heal you where you are hurting and to mature you where you are weak. Perhaps God would bless you by addressing sin now that would otherwise have caused you to waste many years in regret. Ask Him! He loves you and will sanctify you perfectly. God alone can perfectly equip you for the days ahead.

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2. Secondly, invest in your relationship with your children by building a joyful home, introducing them to their Maker, and developing their character. These things are far more important than academics.  The way I look at it, if you have faithfully built a happy home and have developed good character in your children, your entire family – including you – will thrive in every area of life. 

We want our children to have strong, godly character for many reasons. First, because it glorifies God. Secondly, because it will bring our children true happiness and favor. Third, because it makes our home joyful and peaceful. Fourth, because it sets our children up for goodness regardless of circumstances. For example, I often consider the depth of character my children would need if they suddenly have to attend the local public school. What if they are behind academically? What if they are ahead? What if they are socially rejected? What if they are socially idolized? Regardless of how they fare academically or socially, I want my children to have the character that allows them to adjust to changes gracefully, to sit in their desks and work diligently, to respect their teachers, and to be kind to the other students.

These types of things are in the forefront of my mind as I make decisions for our homeschool experience. Worksheets, checklists, lessons, and tests take a backseat to the character that is being developed day by day. Don’t get me wrong, worksheets and lessons are often the ground on which their character is developed, but my eye is always on the outcome of character beyond the correct answers or successful performance.

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3. Finally, regardless of what current academic trends and publishing companies promote, learn what children truly need and focus on that. I believe that children need these few things to thrive: love, discipline, healthy sleep, healthy food, plenty of outdoor play, and consistent exposure to beauty – including nature, literature, music, and art. If you make this golden list your preschool curriculum, you and your children will do well.

If you take these 3 suggestions to heart, you will have established a strong foundation and built life-giving habits that are necessary for a happy homeschool.

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(A Peter Rabbit lunch… complete with parsley for anyone feeling “rather sick”.)

These are the things I talk about when friends ask about homeschooling and young parents are making their first decisions about education. I recommend that they consider how they’ll be able to pursue these ideals this semester… this year. It’s always great if they can find the places where they agree with their husbands and proceed from there. Then, we all face next year’s decisions when that time comes, knowing that we and our families will be stronger and happier for the year we invested so wisely.

If you are in the process of making decisions about your child’s education, I hope for your best! Most of all, do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything. Then, the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind (and your children!) in Christ Jesus.

Posted in All Posts, Homeschooling, Motherhood | 3 Comments

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One summer, we gathered some friends around the campfire to make s’mores. I was in the lawn chair of honor as the Mom with the Marshmallow Bag.  All the kids hovered around me like I was a YouTube clip on a cell phone. (Kids these days…) Each of those sun-kissed kids passionately wanted marshmallows… and each one of them wanted to be first.

Except for Dylan.

In the midst of a dozen little hands reaching in for marshmallows, 5 year old Dylan said, “I can go last” and took his place in the back of the group. 

This was huge.

This was significant.

This was universe-altering.

In my memory, even the lightening bugs paused to absorb what he had just said: “I can go last.” 

(The thing that struck me the most was how he said it: he said it as if it were an ability or a skill he had learned. He said it like a gymnast who had been trained to do a backflip. After hours of practice and instruction, a gymnast could say, “I can do a backflip.” Or, like a trained medic who answers the desperate plea, “Does anyone know CPR?!” with “I can do CPR.” With all the confidence in the world, he said, “I can go last.”) 

Those four words changed my life.

For the past 3 years, my kids and I have talked about that moment a lot. They were there – getting their marshmallows before Dylan – and they think he was amazing, too: wow, to offer to go last when the fire is crackling and the summer stars are singing and the chocolate is waiting… it is nothing less than heroic.

Now, everyone in our family wants to be like Dylan and say, “I can go last” in those moments when it’d be awesome to go first. 

So, we talked about it one day and wrote down some examples of when it’s hard to go last: when we’re nervous, when we’re hungry, when we’re really excited about something, and when we want something.

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We talked about what makes going last great: it allows someone else to go first and get the kick we wanted for ourselves. More than that, it’s one small way we can live like Jesus did: didn’t He often putting Himself last when He deserved be first?

No wonder Dylan said, “I can go last” like it was a golden opportunity.

Then, one of the kids pointed out that it’s equally as hard to go first sometimes. So, we added it to the chalkboard and listed some real-life examples: it’s hard to go first in being friendly, answering questions in class, and being the first one to do something scary.

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This is the real stuff of laying our lives down for one another: the day-by-day, tangible examples when it all becomes real.

These strengths – of going first and going last – are superpowers. We can’t lay our lives down well or consistently without help from God Himself who goes first when it’s inconceivable and goes last when it seems impossible. And He will certainly help us.

“We love because He first loved us…” 1 John 4:19

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Posted in Homeschooling, Motherhood | Comments Off on 2 Superpowers for Every Kid: “I can go first.” “I can go last.”

After much cavorting around the house, Rapunzel and Sir John (aka Flynn Rider) were finally wed in the living room on a wintery day in 2012. Perhaps you will be bored by my many photos, but I was so delighted by their union (and by the adorable wedding planners) that I just have to fill up my blog with snapshots today.

The Guests Take their Seats…

…and talk amongst themselves.

The Bride and her Attendants Prepare in the Dressing Quarters

(At first, Lia was withholding the bouquet. We asked why? She thought “the bride receives the bouquet after the wedding… if she does a good job.” Viv and I explained that, unlike a ballet performance, Rapunzel should carry the bouquet down the aisle with her. The flowers would simply be a beautiful adornment… not a reward, ahem. She was shocked by her misconception and quickly decided she’d rather “do it the way it’s usually done.” Rapunzel received her bouquet gratefully.)

Cue the wedding music!

(Selections from the Suzuki 4 Cassette Tape: some peppy, some slow.)

The wedding party enters.

Sir John (aka Flynn Rider) eagerly awaits his bride…

Everyone oos and ahs at the “Flower Girl Mouse”. And then…

Father Bunny gives away his daughter… his dear Rapunzel, who did not inherit his long ears or long feet, but did turn out with long hair. Sir John is delighted.

You may kiss the bride…

…and carry her down the aisle. (An unconventional pair!)

The bride and groom at the Reception.

Just Married!

Posted in Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling, Laugh About, Motherhood, Preschool | 9 Comments

As you know, we have 17 chickens. They lay eggs every day. Their entire lives revolve around laying those eggs: they eat, sleep, and socialize so that they can lay eggs.

For the most part, they lay eggs in nesting boxes. We never had to teach or train them to do this. They just knew: “There is a plastic bucket attached to the wall. I will lay an egg in it.” Brilliance. Every once in a while, we’ll find an egg in the middle of the stall or under the roost, as if they just couldn’t hold that egg in one moment longer. It’s as if they were just going about their day, when it plopped out – the wrong time, and the wrong place – but an egg, nonetheless. They were created to produce eggs, and they do it!

Anyway, this got me thinking about how each of us is made to produce something unique. (My deepest apologies that I can’t come up with something more elevated than egg-laying, but it’s what I’ve got. And you’ll get the point as long as you work with me here.) “The Chicken Principle” is the thing we do so naturally that we almost can’t help but do it. It’s the thing that just plops out when we’re going about our daily tasks. It might be design, counsel, music, dreams, organization, html, or any other thing.   For me, it’s teaching. It just runs in my blood. I teach here, I teach there, I teach everywhere. I eat, sleep, and socialize so that I can teach. That’s why I homeschool, write, lead Bible studies, and say “yes” to speaking opportunities… because I love to teach. Of course, like those eggs, there is a proper time and place to do the deed, but it’s so natural to my personality that if I talk to you for more than 10 minutes, chances are that I’m going to start teaching, even if I didn’t mean to. Of course, teaching is still hard work for me (just like laying an egg is for a chicken, I imagine), but it’s natural to me and it fills me with vim and vigor. I love it.

Lately, I’ve noticed that most people have shut down their Chicken Principle because they don’t realize how great it is. Whatever-it-is that you produce is there for a reason. Don’t deny its productivity just because it comes naturally. That’s the whole point! It comes naturally so that you will do it! And learn how to do it well, and often. 

What’s your Chicken Principle?

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” Psalm 90:17

Posted in Chickens, Homeschooling, Marriage, Motherhood | 12 Comments

Candy Experiments: SWEET!

(Blowing bubbles into the water to see that air floats! Don’t worry – they weren’t drinking it!)

We had a blast doing candy experiments with leftover candy. I snagged some clearance bags of warheads, nerds, crunch bars, skittles, m&m’s… and we got to work! I found all of the ideas at Candy Experiments and typed out my own lab sheets. The girls were introduced to the words, “hypothesis,” “results,” and “control”, as well as the concept of conducting orderly experiments with only one variable.

M&M Chromotography

Sink or Float

Does my candy have acid in it?

For the Sink/Float and the Acid experiments, I gave each student four tape-donuts. She taped the wrapper to the paper and recorded her results with a pencil.

The sweetest news? I compiled the experiments and the lab sheets into a pdf just for YOU! Enjoy!

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Posted in Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling, Kindergarten | 3 Comments

The Most Important Thing

“Jesus is not coming for a church that’s gritting her teeth, struggling to stay free from sin, secretly wishing she could indulge in a little immorality No, Jesus is coming for a church utterly devoted to Him – one that is free on the inside. The greatest motivation for obedience comes as we encounter more revelation of who Jesus is.” – Passion for Jesus: Cultivating Extravagant Love for God by Mike Bickle

So let us “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…” -from Hebrews 12

What is weighing you down so heavily that you cannot spend time in God’s presence today? What is entangling your time and your affection? Get rid of it and run to Jesus.

Posted in Blogging, Healthy Living, Homeschooling, Marriage, Motherhood | 3 Comments

The Learning Parent keeps running deals on their Character Concept material. I just received an email announcing a free set of character flash cards with the purchase of the book, Crossroads of Character. We’ve been loving this curriculum. If you’re unsure about purchasing the entire curriculum, this book and the flash cards are a great place to start! You can think of your own accompanying Bible stories and activities. (To receive updates from The Learning Parent, sign up to receive their emails.)

Each week, I post the flash card on our white board and we read the stories from the Character Concepts curriculum. These are intended for pre-school children, but Vivienne has been loving them, too! (Oh, Oh! Check out my re-purposed graham cracker box. I snipped off the top, attached a magnetic clip, and wah-lah! Our cards are right where we need them.)

Posted in Character Training, Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling | 1 Comment

First Day Flop

I had great plans for our first day of school etched in my notebook. It was going to be a day of introductions to the vigorous first grade curriculum that I compiled. And, in my wildest dreams, it was going to flow right into Day 2, when we would get right down to work for the next 180 days.

As the day progressed, I could tell that my plans were going by the way-side. We stayed at the fair longer than I had anticipated, the baby needed to be nursed (over and over again), I had to go to the grocery store, and time just wasn’t on my side. I was feeling defeated. I was feeling like this was a First Day Flop. And then, I turned around and was pleasantly surprised at the way my plans were blown out of the water.

We enjoyed our annual “First Day of School Fieldtrip” by cheering on our favorite farmer at The Grange Fair Swine Competition.

Then, Vivienne went up in the ferris wheel, and I watched her from below. Two little pony-tails, bobbing way above the earth; she was higher than she’d ever been before, looking over tree tops and watching people mill about below. A book could never have taught her about that thrill, or about that perspective.

My sister Erin was visiting for the week, and, while I scurried around the grocery store, she took Viv under her wing.

First, they made paper chains and paper lanterns to decorate the school room.

Then they went out in the canoe and paddled around our pond, looking for fresh water wonders. We have a bucket full of snails and such to meet.

Then, they sat on the swing and Vivienne read aloud the first chapter in the beloved “B is for Betsy”.

Erin helped to create a better first day of school than I could ever dream up. In doing so, she reminded me how beautiful homeschooling can be.

Posted in First Grade, Homeschooling | 3 Comments